The 17-member advisory committee to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that met Dec 3-4 failed to recommend lifting a 31-year-old rule prohibiting any man who has had sex with a man since 1977 from donating blood.
The rule came into force in 1983 when the AIDS epidemic was spreading quickly within the gay community and there was no adequate way to test blood for human immunodeficiency virus.
At this point, continuing the rule “would serve only to perpetuate discrimination against gay men because it clearly no longer serves the necessary purpose,” said an editorial in latimes.com.
“At minimum, the FDA should relax its restriction to a one-year span, which would put gay men under the same rules as people who have had heterosexual sex with an intravenous drug user or prostitute,” it said.
However, even that is “more restrictive than necessary” the daily argued because gay men in long-term monogamous relationships have no higher risk of infection than heterosexual married men.
This is because there are now more sophisticated tests for HIV that can rule out infected blood.The FDA is not bound to follow the advisory committee’s recommendation but usually does.
"The meeting provided valuable information and perspectives that will help inform the FDA's deliberations," FDA spokeswoman Jennifer Rodriguez told AFP.
"The FDA's primary concern as we continue to review our blood donation policies will be assuring the continued safety of blood and blood products for the patients who receive these products."
A representative from the gay-rights advocacy group Human Rights Campaign was quoted as telling the panel that bans on blood donation by all people, regardless of sexual orientation, should be lifted.
Earlier, an advisory committee to the US Department of Health and Human Services had recommended that the ban be replaced with a 12-month deferral period for men who have had sex with men during that time.
In other words, sexually active gay men would still be prohibited from donating blood while those with one year abstinence can donate blood.
Australia, Britain and Japan follow this policy while China and Israel do not allow men who have sex with men to donate blood.
HIV has and continues to affect a disproportionate number of gay men.